Viva Espana - Looking for a cycle challenge?

There was a special moment on our tour of northern Spain last October that summed up the experience for my partner and me. It was day three, and our group had already ridden for many hours, when we were faced with a long, steep climb to the mountain village where we were going to spend the night. It took over an hour and a half for us to conquer the eight-mile climb, topping out on a summit with spectacular views along the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. That sense of achievement - along with the aching muscles - was a high point in every sense.

This Exodus tour was the second organised bike trip Fi and I have enjoyed: two years ago, we did a similar week-long ride along the gorgeous Croatian islands from Split to Dubrovnik, and after that fine experience, we had no hesitation taking the plunge again.

To reach the start of the route we flew to Asturias airport, from where Exodus transported us to out hotel on Leon. Here we picked up the reliable mountain bikes that would see us through the week. The tour we'd chosen was an assisted ride, meaning we had the luxury of not just a guide, but also a driver to transport our luggage. Naturally, it's more expensive, but it's great to be able to take a few more luxuries along and travelling light during the day in warm sunshine was a blessing.

Cranking along the Camino
Our 200-mile route westward along the Camino was a mix between pathways and minor roads, which meat there was very little motor traffic. There were 12 of us in the group, with ages from early twenties to mid sixties, and we all got along famously. There were a couple of days where the fitter ones could do some extra miles, though mostly we stayed close together.

Riding as a group gave us plenty of chance to get to know each other, and our tour was expertly marshalled by ride leader Xavier. He was an excellent mechanic, he knew Galicia extremely well, and he also had that invaluable knack of ensuring everyone in the group got along together.

Accommodation was in small hotels, all of which were comfortable, one or two almost luxurious. There's plenty of freedom to choose how you spend your evenings too; on some occasions we'd eat as a group, while on other people would go their own way.

Overall, we'd heartily recommend this kind of holiday. They're not cheap, of course, but we still feel like we got value for our money. The tour company made sure the ride was challenging but tress-free, giving is the time to appreciate the unforgettable scenery and make friend that we've stayed in touch ever since.

London Cycling Campaign member, Owen Davies, recently discovered the joys of an Exodus cycling holiday as he rode the Camino de Santiago in Spain. This article was recently published in the London Cyclist magazine. Website: www.londoncyclist.co.uk

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